How to open a hoop
One of the hardest things to do well is something we do every day. Open and close a hoop in order to put it on. There is an art to it and -- if done well -- a hoop will keep its shape and always look great.
But, a word before I go into the how to. Why would hoops lose their shape if handled carelessly? Well, Harsh and Sweet's hoops are hardened only up to a point. They are kept a bit soft to make putting them on and taking them off easier. Their softness is also a safety feature. Should they get caught up in something and be pulled violently, they will just lose their shape and fall off and your piercing will be sore, but unscathed.
This is especially true of the thin 20 gauge hoops. They are soft and flexible and need some extra care when handled. 18 and 16 gauge hoops are a bit hardier and can feel more firm, but even they can benefit from some careful opening and closing.
Holding the ends of your hoop between index and thumb gently move the two ends apart. Think of two swing sets moving away from each other. Or a swimming lesson.
The opening will be evident only when you look at your hoop from the side. If you look at your hoop from above now that it is open, you will see that it is still a circle.
Managing to preserve that circular shape will come in handy after you put on your hoop. All you need to do at this point is bring the two ends together and you really are done.
Simple, yet effective and your hoop will never lose its shape again.
Harsh and Sweet's jewelry was selected for the catwalk this year at Jewellery & Watch, the largest jewelry trade show of the UK. The fashion show, beautifully styled by Nicola Drew, opened with a section for the British Born and Made section in which Harsh and Sweet was exhibiting.
You might recognize the onyx bangle and the hematite bangles worn on the upper arms of the model. Three pearl necklaces were also modeled in this show as well as the wide hematite earrings.
Waiting for the new year to start...
I wanted to wish everyone a great 2016. The year that is about to end has been both wonderful and horrific. Here's to hoping that the one that is about to start may be better.
This February Harsh and Sweet will exhibit at Jewellery & Watch in Birmingham, the largest jewelry trade show of the UK. Harsh and Sweet will be part of the British Born & Made section dedicated to the best of new British jewelry design.
During Jewellery & Watch, Harsh and Sweet will introduce a new collection that is now receiving its finishing touches as well as two established collections.
The short guide to ear cuffs
You may wonder what a guide to ear cuffs does and what it is... Bear with me. I'll explain you everything.
Most days I run into someone wearing ear cuffs. It's usually very inspiring, as it reminds me of how much people like them and it makes me feel like designing more. However, I will occasionally meet someone who seems to have given up on her ear cuffs. Those ear cuffs are no longer in their right position and they are pointing to the ground. I get that. There's only a certain number of times anyone can reposition their ear cuffs without eventually running out of steam.
The problem has nothing to do with the person. It has to do with the ear cuffs, mass produced little things that came out of a mold and don't have enough elasticity to do their job, This is why I decided to write this blog post. This is really a short and dirty guide on how to avoid ear cuffs that are going to let you down. Some ear cuffs are just not going to work, not on you nor on anyone else, and all you need to do to recognize and avoid them is in the next few points.
Not all ear cuffs are for everyone.
Just as it wouldn't make sense for a petite woman to wear XXL clothes, it doesn't make sense to wear ear cuffs that are the wrong size for your ear lobes. If your ear lobes are very small, there's a good chance they are also very thin and most ear cuffs will slip off of them. Avoid mass produced ear cuffs and choose to buy from someone who will tailor your jewelry until it is perfect for you. Custom orders are a good idea when it comes to ear cuffs.
Ear cuffs that are inflexible.
Once you hold an ear cuff between thumb and index finger, you should be able to make it change shape. If an ear cuff is so hard that it doesn't change shape, or if it does change shape under pressure, but springs back to its original shape when you release it, it will only adhere to ear lobes that are thicker than the space between its front and back elements. If you have smaller ear lobes these ear cuffs are never going to work for you.
Ear cuffs that are so long both on the front and on the back that they reach your cartilage.
All I can say about this is that what starts as a mild discomfort turns into a dull pain in the space of one or two hours. Something will be very wrong with the world even though in the beginning you won't be able to tell what it is, until the moment when you reach for your ear lobe and all of a sudden you realize that your ears are hurting. A lot. Taking off the offending ear cuff is the only thing you can do to avoid being in pain.
Avoid this scenario by buying from someone who will modify your ear cuffs to make sure they steer clear of your cartilage. You'll be grateful you did.
A new collection is coming out soon
A new collection is in the works and will be out soon. I found some really beautiful depicted jasper beads and I couldn't resist. Their big size sets them apart form any stones I've been using so far. Their nicely rounded shape and their dimensions make them fairly heavy and they weight about 6.5 grams each (.22oz). Their colors are also very beautiful and they naturally complement the color of the Sterling silver I like so much.
I can't say that I waited too long to start working with them once I got them in my studio! Their weight makes them ideal for pendants and rings, and the first pieces are already in the works. This is a picture of the first ones I made, two pendants and two rings. They are not quite finished yet, but I wanted everyone to see them.
However, there is a difficulty. I was only able to secure one strand of these beads and my provider doesn't seem to have any others immediately available. I only have nineteen, yes, 19, and they probably won't last long. If you want to be sure to be among the firsts to be notified when the collection becomes available, please, sign up for Harsh and Sweet's newsletter. I will send out a message to my subscribers when this collection becomes available, and possibly a little before they are listed, to allow all my followers to shop before anyone alse.
Silver jewelry can be difficult, even more so if it's the wire-wrapped kind. This brought me to decide to write about how to store it. Let me explain.
I've been looking for some jewelry in need of cleaning in preparation for the follow-up to last month's blog post. To my great surprise, none of my wire-wrapped jewelry needs cleaning. I'm not complaining - I'm really not - but that made me realize that I should first write about how to keep jewelry in pristine condition. After all, the easiest jewelry to clean is that which doesn't require any cleaning at all!
So, how do you keep your jewelry clean? It's all about storing it in the right way. My choice of the word "storing" is not accidental. I don't keep my jewelry on an open display or a jewelry dish. Dust doesn't do anything good for your jewelry. No matter how clean you home, a small amount of dust is inevitable and it will generate more work for you every time you want to wear something and have to clean it up beforehand.
However, since I really like silver and my favorite jewelry is made out of silver, keeping my jewelry in a closed container allows me first and foremost to protect it from oxidation and tarnishing. If you live in an area with high humidity - and to a certain extent we all do - it is inevitable that at some point you will expose your jewelry to some high humidity if you don't store it in a closed container. I found that out the hard way a few years ago when I left a pair of earrings on a coffee table right underneath a ceiling fan. By the following morning they were black. Metal will always be cooler that other items in your house and act like a magnet for that moisture in the air. Having them in a place where they would become even cooler than usual and oxidize faster contributed to this oxidizing, but this process will take place even if you leave in a more protected part of your home.
So, then, what to do to avoid dust, oxidation and all sorts of other issues? The solution I have been using for a long time is to use a closed container. This doesn't need to be anything fancy - although there are some that are very beautiful for sale out there - but it needs to be a container that can be closed thus shutting out dust and humidity.
The ultimate shape and form of your jewelry box can vary, but it should match the make up of your collection. You have plenty of necklaces and hardly any earrings or rings? A box that will allow you to hang your necklaces would probably be best, followed by one in which you can store each necklace in a small receptacle. On the other hand, if you have plenty of small items like rings and ear cuffs, you might benefit from a number of removable trays that can be filled up with your small jewels.
My final recommendation would be to add to your box a piece of chalk to absorb excess humidity. Before you do that, stuff it into a small jewelry pouch or something equally small to make sure it doesn't leave any dust inside your jewelry box. It will need to be replaced periodically, but your wire-wrapped silver jewelry won't be in danger of oxidizing!
Wire-wrapped jewelry has its fans, and understandably I would add, since this technique allows jewelry makers all over the world to create beautiful pieces in a great variety of styles. However, taking care of wire-wrapped jewelry requires us to take some additional precautions. In this post I will briefly go over "how not to" care for wire-wrapped jewelry in preparation for a later blog post on "how to" do it. Both posts will offer simple and easy-to-follow suggestions and recommendations. They all can be implemented with simple tools and materials, and will make your jewelry ready to wear again in no time. But, first of all...what not to do.
Wrapped wire does not like to be brushed, scrubbed or handled roughly. If you are about to follow the recommendation of anyone who is telling you to use a toothbrush, you may want to hold on for a moment and read to the end. While the parts of your jewelry made with the thickest wire are going to be fine, the wrapping made with the thinnest wire is going to be damaged by any amount of scrubbing. The wrapping will lose its regularity and the wire might even come loose and end up scratching you. Although brushes are fine for other jewelry, they are better avoided when it comes to your wire-wrapped pieces.
Some of the methods most often recommended for cleaning jewelry make use of substances that can leave behind a residue. This will tend to gather in all the nooks and crannies and will need to be rinsed well. This is particularly true of toothpaste, one of the cleaning substances most often recommended for silver. This is a real problem for wire-wrapped jewelry and all the minute spaces between its coils. Toothpaste will deposit itself in the narrow spaces between coils and never come out. As tempting as it may be to use something as readily available as toothpaste, it is really not a good idea.
What to use, then? Before choosing, one needs to take into consideration other factors. Is your jewel made with gemstones or pearls? These can be quite prone to damage from all sorts of substances and need to be handled with care. Pearls are particularly delicate and can be so easily damaged they require a cleaning guide all to themselves. If strong chemical substances are used, the surface of gemstones might end up losing its finish and look dull. As you see, things get complicated. So how do you clean wire-wrapped jewelry?
Things have lost their regular rhythm in the last few months in this blog. I've been very caught up in raising awareness about the threatened closure of one of the colleges where I spent part of my life, Sweet Briar College, and my blog did suffer.
However, while not blogging I had time to reflect about a number of different things. The first of them is that blogging only about jewelry making is starting to feel like a limitation, although a self-imposed one. This choice seemed obvious in the beginning since my blog is hosted on my site, a jewelry site, but it conflicts with my interest in several different crafts that I have practiced for many years.
As a result of that, my life is much less tidy than this blog would lead anyone to believe. I don't only have jewelry making supplies that need organizing, but also yarn, fabric, and other materials for bookbinding and the occasional felting session.
This is probably the reason why, as much as I like jewelry making, my other interests have started to demand more and more of my time, first by tempting me to take up a knitting project or to make something for the home, and then by inspiring me with ideas for blog posts and tutorials.
While the materials filling up my home are in use in very different activities and involve very diverse techniques, there are nevertheless a few basic principles that I find myself applying each time I make something. I've come to think of it as mindful crafting, a combination of eco-friendly ideas and practices as well as a frame of mind that helps me connect with what I am doing just as much as with the reasons why I am doing it.
In my next blogs I am going to talk some more about mindful crafting and to show some of the projects I have been working on. There might be a few tutorials as well... after all, why not share the fun?
I have been debating for a long time what kind of packaging to buy for my jewelry. It's not that I'm unhappy with what I'm using right now - dark blue cardboard jewelry boxes. It's simply that I know that they probably get thrown away the minute the jewelry is delivered. Since I'm really not a fan of waste and wastefulness, I have been trying to think of better ways of packaging my jewelry for shipping, but so far I still have not been able to choose one type of container over another.
In other news, I'm often facing a different problem. Bear with me for a minute, you'll see that the two might be connected. On a busy day, I will leave the house in a hurry only to realize that I have no jewelry on me when it's already too late. I went through the trouble of showering, dressing up, even putting on some make-up, but alas, I'm wearing absolutely no jewelry. Of course, this is very evident when you are a jewelry maker and people will often comment on it.
I've been in this situation a sufficient number of times to know that, no matter how much I try to be more careful, it will happen again. However, it dawned on me that I could solve this problem by simply having some jewelry in my handbag at the ready for those times when I need it. So, by now you probably see how the two topics are connected in my head.
What if my jewelry containers could be reused by my customers as carrying cases for their jewelry? I know I would appreciate having one and possibly some of my customers would want one too.
Now the question becomes what type of packaging to choose. A metal container that will protect the jewelry from damage? Or perhaps a fabric pouch that can be easily stored inside a make-up bag? Or maybe a completely different type of container? I really don't know what kind of packaging other women might find most useful and I don't want to make this decision based on a subjective assumption. I'm going to give this issue some thought at the same time as I ask everyone for input, both here and on Harsh and Sweet's Facebook page.
So, please, if you have any thoughts on this issue, weigh in. I would love to hear what kind of packaging is most likely to be reused. I'll be even happier if - instead of mailing out more stuff destined for a landfill - I can make your life easier and make you always look ready for every occasion!
I love hematite, onyx, and chocolate.